Some of the best advice my late mother, Marion Chaput, gave me was along the lines of, “Don’t talk to people you don’t know about religion or politics, since you might offend somebody.” Sadly, along with other advice she gave me for a little over fifty years, I did not take it to heart, as I should have. It’s usually been the ‘politics’ part that has gotten me in trouble, since I tend to wear my progressive views quite openly. I find it better, especially on the job, not to get all Leftist on folks. You can imagine all I swallowed back in New York when Rudolph Giuliani was mayor!
If you know me, you also know that I'm Agnostic on my best days and deeply Atheistic when I'm cranky. I was raised Roman Catholic, attending catechism weekly for most of my elementary school years, plus going through the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. When I turned thirteen, in my first year of high school, it was time to decide whether or not I would continue in what was then called Christian Youth Organization (the high school version of catechism for teens). While I was given the choice, my mother felt that it would be best if I gave it one year and then made the decision. Of course, not to offend her I went ahead with the weekly meetings discovering quite quickly that, at least for me, they were a great waste of time.
Now, being honest here, my father and I never had many what you would call 'serious' conversations. I remember having one about 'sex', which took place a week before my first marriage to Betsy with whom I had been living for eight months, and one about religion when I was thirteen. I have no idea how it came about, probably because I was complaining about going to CYO when my friends (most of whom were already attending Sacred Heart Catholic school, so didn't have to attend the weekly classes) were out doing more interesting things.
It wasn't a long conversation, as my father really was never a long-winded kind of guy. I tend to take after my mother and love to hear my own voice, as does my sister, Pam. (My younger sister Susan takes after my father on the other hand.) Basically, it came down to my father admitting that he really didn't have any faith in a God and only attended church for my mother's sake. He told me that he had never seen evidence to prove there was a God and things he had seen during WWII and after reinforced his non-belief. I doubt my dad ever read any books on philosophy or theology, but then he pretty much stuck to books on sports and exotic travel.
At thirteen this was all I needed to move me from doubting there was anything to all the catechism I had been taught, to deciding it was all pretty silly. Personally, I found tales of the Norse & Greek gods a lot more interesting than anything I had found in most of the bible stories I had read.
This post has gone on a lot longer than I had planned, so I'm going to cut it in half. Since I've already bored you with all this next time I'm actually going to get around to talking about the books: “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins and “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris.